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Increasingly dense cities and climate change require efficient urban runoff management

A Finnish cooperation project is developing innovative and natural urban runoff solutions with export potential.
Urban runoff flows to the sea

Aalto University's Water and Environmental Engineering research is involved in a unique cooperation project between municipalities, universities and companies: New Smart & Clean solutions for urban runoff management.

Urban runoff occurs in urban areas when rainfall or melting snow and ice cannot infiltrate into the ground. Stormwater running from urbanized areas cause stress to nearby water systems because stormwater carries pollutants such as heavy metals, nutrients and microplastics.

The project is developing seven different pilot solutions for the treatment of urban runoff in the Espoo, Helsinki, Lahti and Vantaa area. For example, the solutions include underground wetlands being created at the Helsinki airport as well as biofiltration systems for road runoff in Espoo.

The solutions developed and tested in the project will act as reference for companies and be also shared internationally. The global urbanisation trend and the need to solve the stormwater challenges in the existing cities create significant growth prospects for the storm water business.

For the adaptation to climate change, stormwater management is crucial in the cities of Northern Europe, as the amount of rainfall is expected to increase significantly in northern latitudes.

Internationally interesting solutions increasing the attractiveness of cities

Aalto University and the University of Helsinki will have a cross-cutting role in the monitoring of the pilot areas in the metropolitan area and the analysis of the data collected from the pilot areas.

In collaboration with Finavia Oyj and Sitowise Oy, Aalto will be developing the most suitable structural solution for the underground wetland areas being created in the airport area in the next few years. The purpose of the wetlands is to filter the airport runoff in order to mitigate the high organic material stress caused by the antiskid treatment and anti-icing agents.

‘The objective of the project is to promote Finnish urban runoff expertise and its export potential, such as the solutions being applied in the airport areas’, says Postdoctoral Researcher Nora Sillanpää from Aalto University School of Engineering. Sillanpää is leading the project at Aalto University with Professor Harri Koivusalo.

A multi-use park area is being planned for Aviapolis in Vantaa to integrate stormwater as a part of the urban environment. For example, automatic water quality control data can be shared with park visitors by using intelligent lighting that responds to stormwater quality or water level in the park area.

‘Another goal is to increase awareness about urban streams in a positive way and to, for example, use monitoring data in the teaching of a new school located in the area’, says Sillanpää.

The project will be implemented 1 January 2018 – 28 February 2019. Participants include the Cities of Lahti, Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa, university partners Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, and Finavia Oyj, Sensmet Oy, Optoseven Oy, WSP Finland Oy, Sitowise Oy, Ruskon Betoni Oy, Rudus Oy, LECA Finland Oy, Bluet Oy, Rakennusbetoni- ja Elementti Oy, Luonnonvarakeskus LUKE and Helsingin seudun ympäristöpalvelut HSY.

The project receives governmental AIKO funding granted by the Uusimaa region. The AIKO funding is intended for initiating regional innovations and experiments as a part of the five-year Smart & Clean (2016–2021) change project. The Smart & Clean foundation of the metropolitan area aims to make the metropolitan area and Lahti the world's best test area for smart and clean solutions.

Contact persons

Professor Harri Koivusalo
Aalto University School of Engineering, Department of Built Environment
tel. +358 (0)50 570 9864
[email protected]

Postdoctoral Researcher Nora Sillanpää
Aalto University School of Engineering, Department of Built Environment
tel. +358 (0)50 386 3325
[email protected]

Project Coordinator Juhani Järveläinen, City of Lahti
tel. +358 (0)50 559 4083
[email protected]

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